Miliband will allow badger culling again

Via the Sunday Times:

Miliband will allow badger culling again
June 3rd 2007/David Cracknell

MINISTERS are poised to lift a 10-year ban on badger culling and allow large-scale kills across the countryside.

David Miliband, the environment secretary, will endorse an independent study to be published next week that concludes large-scale culling would help stem the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

A moratorium on cull licences has been in place since 1998, but ministers and government advisers feel that they can no longer ignore the rapid spread of the disease along the “cattle belt”, which runs from Cornwall, up the west of the country, to Cheshire. There were almost 800 suspected outbreaks in the first two months of this year.

Miliband sent a letter to cabinet colleagues last week in which he admitted the policy will be highly controversial – a government consultation has shown that 95% of the public are against badger culling – and that he expects there to be a legal challenge from animal rights activists.

His letter comes as the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), which has been conducting random trials on the effectiveness of local culls in stemming the spread of the disease, prepares to publish its final report on June 15.

It will suggest that large-scale culling, involving many farmers, “could be beneficial”, although “organisationally challenging and [would] involve significant cost to the farming industry”.

Miliband noted that bovine TB is a serious problem for the farming industry, although its impact is felt primarily in the southwest of England, the West Midlands and Wales. Each year it costs the taxpayer £100m, a large part of which goes in compensation payments to farmers.

“In areas where bovine TB is endemic, it is clear that badgers play a key role in transmitting disease,” Miliband wrote.

Badgers have statutory protection but they are not endangered and evidence suggests there has been a large increase in numbers over the past 20 years.

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